An openly gay member of the U.S. Olympic delegation criticized the White House’s selection of Vice President Mike Pence to lead the U.S. athletes to the upcoming games in South Korea in an interview with USA Today earlier this week.
In the interview, Adam Rippon, 28, the 2016 U.S. men’s figure skating champion, blasted Pence’s participation, asking, “You mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy?”
“I’m not buying it,” Rippon said.
Rippon that he would prefer not to meet Pence although there is a traditional meet-and-greet between U.S. officials and athletes before the opening ceremony. USA Today noted that Rippon might miss that event anyway to participate in a team figure skating competition.
“If it were before my event, I would absolutely not go out of my way to meet somebody who I felt has gone out of their way to not only show that they aren’t a friend of a gay person but that they think that they’re sick,” Rippon said. “I wouldn’t go out of my way to meet somebody like that.”
Rippon said he doesn’t think Pence has “a real concept of reality,”
“To stand by some of the things that Donald Trump has said and for Mike Pence to say he’s a devout Christian man is completely contradictory,” Rippon said. “If he’s OK with what’s being said about people and Americans and foreigners and about different countries that are being called ‘s**tholes,’ I think he should really go to church.”
Rippon said he will not protest in any way during the games.
“No, I’m a U.S. athlete representing my country,” he said. “I will continue to share my story, but I will participate in no form of protest. I’m representing myself and my country on the world stage. I have a lot of respect for this opportunity. What makes America great is that we’re all so different. It’s 2018 and being an openly gay man and an athlete, that is part of the face of America now.”
Rippon said he also plans to skip a post-Olympic celebration at the White House hosted by President Donald Trump. He also said he would be open to meeting Pence after the Olympics.
“If I had the chance to meet him afterward, after I’m finished competing, there might be a possibility to have an open conversation,” Rippon said. “He seems more mild-mannered than Donald Trump. … But I don’t think the current administration represents the values that I was taught growing up. Mike Pence doesn’t stand for anything that I really believe in.”
How did Pence respond?
The Washington Post noted that spokespersons for Pence have denied the vice president supports gay conversion therapy. Some activists, however, point to a statement on Pence’s congressional campaign website in 2000 that read: “Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”
Pence’s press secretary Alyssa Farah said in a statement to USA Today: “The vice president is proud to lead the U.S. delegation to the Olympics and support America’s incredible athletes.”
“This accusation is totally false and has no basis in fact,” Farah said. “Despite these misinformed claims, the vice president will be enthusiastically supporting all the U.S. athletes competing next month in Pyeongchang.”